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Mrs. KIRKPATRICK of Arizona. Mr. Chair, the House considers today H.R. 4785, the Rural Energy Savings Program. I am a cosponsor of the original, bipartisan legislation that would address a critical need in rural America--energy efficiency improvements that will reduce our energy consumption and lower consumers' utility bills.
This original bill creates new loans under the Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service. The voluntary loans to electric cooperatives will facilitate their providing low-interest loans to consumers, to be repaid through utility bills. Loans will allow cooperative customers to make only energy efficiency improvements that are proven to be worth the investment. After the small loans for improvements are repaid, consumers will have a lasting reduction in their bills as their energy consumption declines. The federal government will be repaid, wisely leveraging these taxpayer dollars for long-term benefits. This program is a win-win-win for consumers, the cooperatives that serve them, and taxpayers, and I strongly support this model.
Unfortunately, the bill we are considering today also includes the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act--a measure the House considered in May of this year and that I opposed. This bill--also known as ``Cash for Caulkers''--would authorize more than $6 billion in new federal spending for rebates to home improvements. I heard from constituents before last spring's vote that this bill will simply not work for Greater Arizona. The rebates require homeowners to have means to make the improvements in the first place, and in this economic downturn that is simply not an option for many families.
In addition, the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act could cost the taxpayers more than $6 billion over the life of the program. I just spent six weeks back in Greater Arizona meeting with small businesses, working families, and local leaders. The concern I heard expressed most frequently was concern that our deficit is growing too quickly and that our national debt is mortgaging our children's future. We must stop spending and start to address our long-term fiscal imbalance, and moving forward with this bill is not going to get the job done.
I support our rural electric cooperatives, but I cannot support a bill that will add so significantly to our deficit or that will not help families struggling in these tough times.
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